- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France (AP) — Two public buses were torched in a Paris suburb yesterday, the anniversary of the two deaths that ignited weeks of riots in largely immigrant housing projects across France a year ago.

Both buses were burned in Blanc Mesnil, a northern Paris suburb near Clichy-sous-Bois, where last year’s violence began, police said.

In the first attack, two armed men forced passengers off the bus before setting it alight, police said. No one was injured.

The second bus was set on fire shortly after.

Witness Thierry Ange, 19, said four hooded men stood in front of the bus, forcing it to stop. He said they pulled the driver out by his tie. He said one of the attackers hit a passenger and kicked her down the bus’ steps.

The incidents were the latest in a series of bus burnings over the past few days.

Flaming cars became a symbol of three weeks of rampages last year, which jolted the nation into recognizing discontent among many minorities — especially those of Arab and black African origin, and France’s 5 million-strong Muslim population.

The outburst of anger at the accidental deaths of the two teens — who were electrocuted in a power substation in Clichy-sous-Bois while hiding from police on Oct. 27, 2005 — grew into a broader challenge of the French state.

Several hundred people marched silently yesterday through Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, in honor of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore. Zyed, 17, was buried in his father’s native Tunisia. Bouna, 15, was of Mauritanian descent.

Adolescent boys in hooded sweat shirts made up a large part of the mixed-race crowd, their heads bent as prayers were read in Arabic and French.

France’s trouble integrating minorities and the recent unrest are becoming political priorities in the campaign for next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Instead of France’s vaunted “egalite,” or equality, many immigrants and their French-born children suffer police harassment, struggle to find work and live in cinder-block public housing mired in crime and poverty.

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